Othello
Wiliam Shakespeare
Contributed by Karim Chandra
Act 2 Scene 3
Summary

 During the celebration, Cassio is in charge of the drinking and feasting. He takes all his orders from Othello who informs him to tell the soldiers to drink in moderations and make sure that they are peaceful.  It is the responsibility of Cassio and Iago to enforce the orders of Othello. After issuing the instructions, Othello and Desdemona retire to bed. It is the first time that the two are sharing a bed after their marriage. Iago and Cassio have remained alone. Iago introduces the story of Desdemona to Cassio, but Cassio shows no interests. He, them, invites Cassio for a drink. Once again, Cassio shows no interest. It is after a lot of pestering that Cassio to drink alcohol with Iago.

While taking advantage of their drunken stupor, Iago drives Roderigo into starting a fight with Cassio. Other soldiers join the fight, and soon a huge brawl arises among the soldiers. Othello then sends Roderigo to ring the alarm bell. The alarm bell wakes up Othello and his soldiers, and he demands to know who had started the fight. Feigning reluctance, Iago names Cassio as the person responsible for the fight. Othello views this as indiscipline, and he relieves Cassio of his post. Together with Desdemona, the two return to sleep.

Iago uses his persuasive power on Cassio by urging him to speak to Desdemona to help him put up a strong a case before Othello. Cassio finds this to be a favorable idea and he agrees with the idea. Iago uses his wife who is as acting as Desdemona's maid to arrange for a meeting between Cassio and Desdemona.

Analysis

The scene has everything that characterizes comedy in a play. Several speeches and actions appear to be out of place. However, the brawl that happens after the drinking plays a significant role in furtherance of the conflict that characterizes the play. In several instances, Othello praises Iago for his personality. He says that Iago "Iago is most honest" (6), and Cassio: "Not tonight, good Iago." (28).

When Iago starts talking to Cassio about Desdemona, he uses sexually suggestive language to gauge the mindset of Cassio. Ge says that "she is a sport for Jove" (16) and "I'll warrant her full of the game" (18). Cassio deflects all these statements. Iago then uses alcohol to attract Cassio. Again, Cassio rejects his advances. He says that I have very poor and unhappy brains for drinking. I could well wish courtesy would invent some other custom of entertainment" (30-32). However, Iago, being eager to achieve his aim, continues to press Cassio to accept his invitation.

Iago pushes his cunningness to another level when he approaches Montano that Cassio is a habitual drunkard who is unreliable and should have never earned promotion from Othello. When Cassio arrives, Montano scolds him for being drunk. Cassio sees this comment as an insult, and he attacks Montano with a sword. The scene is played in a noisy and violent stage. There is a lot of running and light flickering in the darkness. It is a scene that plays an important role in the determination of the events in the subsequent scenes.

The noises wake up Othello from his marriage bed. He is visibly furious and does not understand why the people he had put in place to maintain order are failing in their responsibilities. He sees these chaotic scenes as evidence of incompetence from his subordinates. He accuses the military officers of wrecking the ‘ship' from within and doing the work of the enemy.  "For Christian shame, put by this barbarous brawl" (153) says Othello. He threatens any person who moves with execution and the chaos stops. The potential of the chaos is that the people of Cyprus may think that there is a rebellion and that may have far-reaching political consequences. Others orders; Silence that dreadful bell: it frights the isle / From her propriety" (135-136). In this case, Othello bypasses his new lieutenant and goes for Iago, whom he asks to name the persons who have been involved in the brawl.

In his typical cunning nature, Iago pretends that he does not like to name the person who has contributed to the chaotic scenes. He says, "I had rather have this tongue cut from my mouth / Than it should do offense to Michael Cassio" (202-203). Surprisingly, Othello makes an error of judgment and trusts what Iago has told him about Cassio. He says that "I know, Iago, Thy honesty, and love doth mince this matter, making it light to Cassio" (227-229). From this incident, Iago manages to warm his way back to Othello's heart. He becomes the second in command.

"I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial" (242-244). Cassio has sobered up, and he is starting to see the mistakes that he has made. He is honestly regretful about his conduct. Iago, in a rather mocking tone, replies to him that, Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, often got without merit, and lost without deserving" (247-248).It is important to note the double face of Iago when he invites Casio to have a drink with him and then later on standing with Montano to accuse him of acting unwisely. He goes to Othello and describes the uselessness of Cassio and the manner in which he Cassio is prone to errors of Judgement. However, Iago shows another face when he goes to Cassio and seeks to provide him with advice on the best way to get back his position.

Cassio regrets his actions. He is very bitter that he failed to act in line with the ethical standards that guide his profession. When Iago offers him an option, he readily accepts it, and that helps to put Iago's revenge mission right on course. "And what's he then that says I play the villain when this advice is free I give and honest?" (303-304). In this speech, Iago is trying to dispel any notion that he is the villain character in the play. He has helped Cassio with free advice, and that should be sufficient to help him get back his lost position. Iago has created a plan that will necessitate a meeting between Cassio and Desdemona, a critical element in his plan. Iago would go back to Othello and report that Desdemona wants back Cassio to be her lover. "I'll pour this pestilence into his ear" (323). Being the jealous man that he is, there is no way Othello will escape to feel the effect of this poison. Iago understands that Othello is a jealous man and such news is likely to drive him crazy and necessitate him to act in ways that will lead to his downfall.

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